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5 pitfalls that could derail your travel nursing career

Travel nursing can be a richly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. But as with any career path, there are bad habits and behaviors that can prove detrimental to your short-term and long-term success in the field.

For a long and successful travel nursing career, be careful of these five potential travel nursing career pitfalls and do your best to avoid them.

1. Slacking on your paperwork

Keep up on travel nursing paperworkWe polled several RNnetwork recruiters, and what’s the number one cardinal paperwork sin? Unequivocally: tardiness.

“When you accept an assignment, jump on the paperwork immediately,” said RNnetwork recruiter Ora DeVito. “There is always a deadline and something as simple as a signature could put you back several weeks. If your paperwork is not to the hospital on time, your assignment will be pushed back.”

Recruiter Chris Georgiou also cautions that procrastinating the standard paperwork can potentially add more stress in the event of last-minute asks.

“Facilities are often changing requirements. They may throw something at us last-minute,” said Georgiou. “If you are still working on your to-do list, it may be stressful or even impossible to facilitate a last-minute ask. Don’t wait; act!”

Recruiters share helpful tips such as saving all documents in one convenient folder on your computer and also on your phone, so you can access them easily. Additionally, recruiters recommend keeping a physical folder with you on assignment, so you have all your hard copies in one place.

2. Being too rigid or inflexible

Recruiters and veteran travel nurses alike extol the virtues of being flexible and open to new experiences — both in terms of assignments to consider, as well as new or different ways of practicing nursing.

“Some of the best relationships I have are with nurses who are open to me saying, ‘would you consider…?’ and don’t feel threatened by a conversation outside the box,” said recruiter Michele Kluger. “This is such an organic business — positions open and close moment to moment. If I have a great position that fits their skill set, but may be in a location they hadn’t previously expressed interest in, I wouldn’t do right by them if I didn’t ask, ‘would you consider…’ It’s great to be open to different options and different locations.”

Georgiou advises this same flexibility with respect to compensation.

“A good recruiter will always try to give you as much as they possibly can,” said Georgiou. “Some nurses feel they should ask for the highest end of their budget in order to negotiate. But that may keep you from hearing about a job that could be perfect for you because it’s outside your desired budget. Instead, focus on a range – for example, ‘I need to make at least $X, but am hoping to get $Y.’ By painting the whole picture, your recruiter can do more.”

3. Burning bridges

Good travel nurses make friends and don't burn bridgesIn a short-term assignment, especially in cases where conflict may arise — some may be tempted to complain, try to change the system while they’re there, adopt a “temp” mindset, or burn bridges upon their exit.

As simple as it sounds: be kind. Seek to resolve conflict. Be positive. Get involved. Make an effort to develop and maintain strong workplace relationships. You never know where career paths may cross again, and you’ll never regret upholding your professional integrity.

This advice extends to your relationship with your recruiter. Be open, honest, and transparent with your recruiter – and hold your recruiter to the same high standards.

“Your recruiter should be your advocate, not your adversary,” said Georgiou. “Everything boils down to good communication. Find a recruiter you connect with, trust, and like.”

DeVito adds, “You attract who you are. Honesty and integrity go hand-in-hand. I need to be honest with my nurses and never steer the in the wrong direction, and that goes both ways. It’s all about building a relationship and building trust.”

4. Neglecting to plan for future assignments

You’ve made the move, started your assignment, and it can be tempting to settle into your new routine. That’s great! But don’t forget to plan ahead for future assignments.

Kluger is in constant communication with her nurses. Early in the 13-week assignment, she is reaching out to ascertain their interest in extending or exploring a new assignment elsewhere. She also works with her nurses to set a careful short-range and long-range plan.

“I try to be mindful of where my nurses are and make a plan that is both geographically and seasonally responsible,” said Kluger. “For example, if I have a nurse in Florida who is interested in making their way to California, I recommend earmarking some states in between in order to avoid ping-ponging across the continent. We also take into account the weather and seasonal demand some areas face. Some of my nurses prefer to travel by RV, and we need to be mindful not to send them somewhere with a harsh winter.”

RNnetwork’s recruiters recommend having these conversations by week four of your current assignment, and also advise, “a good recruiter will set the standard for that. My job is to ensure you never miss a paycheck and benefits.”

5. Staying in

Don’t forget to enjoy and explore your new community. Exposure to new places and people is what makes travel nursing great. Research the local area for those pursuits that interest you most — whether it be dining, festivals, history, outdoor recreation, etc. Make a bucket list of what you hope to gain from each assignment, and have fun exploring the must-sees and must-dos on your list.

Are you a travel nurse who has witnessed a travel nursing career faux pas? What advice or tips do you offer? Comment below!

About the author

Allison Riley

Allison Riley

Allison Riley is a public relations professional with more than 10 years experience in healthcare and corporate communications. She lives in New York City with her better half and two wonderful daughters. She and her girls are currently contending for world's slowest recorded stair climb to a fifth-floor apartment, and she enjoys writing so she can just finish her sentence already.


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